While setting out to explore pattern learning, and recognition characteristics of various multi-layered spiking neural network models, I repeatedly found myself straying off-course, being compellingly attracted to inquiry regarding the fundamental principles underlying cognition.
This site presents a work in progress, stemming from this farmer’s personal quest, that has intensified over recent years, to conjure some parsimoniously consistent insight of consciousness and cognition – this most intriguing of all subjects – from an independent position that is free to disregard convention.
Motivated by a quest for deeper insight, what follows has been arrived at through a process of, well… conjecture.
Inspired by diverse disciplinary perspectives, including Neurophysiology, cognitive science research, philosophy and physics (though lacking physicist’s skills, I have come to believe that ultimately the mystery of phenomenality underlying consciousness is essentially a hard problem in physics).
Building on the utterly banal, I attempt to unfold a fragment of a theory relating pattern processing, consciousness generation and binding. I also propose some constraints the physical nature of phenomenal expression.
My theorizing might be severely misguided in it’s entirety or in part(s), but conversely it could perhaps be circling-in on some measure of truth, gross inaccuracy notwithstanding. I liken this work to an inter-perspective rivalry trick, one that is played over the edge of understanding.
I am not naive with regards to the great complexity of cellular machines, and of neural systems in particular. Indeed I am aware of the inter-disciplinary semantic charge borne just by the word “complexity”. I am acutely aware of the great sea of specific details that is gradually being unraveled, using diverse experimental and modeling approaches, utilizing increasingly sophisticated techniques.
Yet the span and the depth of the void yet to be charted remains vast and dark, and we make little sense of our findings, because theory is lacking and we still do not understand the principles, the fundamentals.
The theory is sketched using extremely simplified skeletal schematics. The presentation characterized by a reduction to an idealized bare-bones simplification, which is devoid of mathematical formalism, and arguably acceptable only because it outlines a very limited set of conceivably interrelated, basic, functional principles. I ignore so many side-tracks, skip over so many pitfalls and traps – in an attempt to sketch just a few critical points.
The main ideas do not call upon any science fringe conceptualizations. Fitting alternative titles for the three main sections of the work, (using the famous terminology coined by Chalmers) would be Easy, Easy->Hard and Hard. A proposed order of scale dissociation between computation and phenomenal manifestation underlies the insights and thesis. The first two sections explore a particular flavor of coherence that could plausible be imposed by neural like machinery, and the cognition related nature of the consequent system state. The main body of theory builds upon and extends notions of synchronicity and equivalence. It proposes that Neural-like computation only handles spatiotemporal patterning. Pattern processing involves isomorphic transformations, and binding occurs through the formation of configurations of dense isotropic activity. These aspects may explain the creation of a dynamic virtual focal point implementing a simplistic ‘I’.
The third section complements the thesis with ideas and conceivable constraints upon the phenomenal aspect that science has not yet been able to tackle. Applying the theme of order of scale dissociation, it is suggested that (proto-)phenomenal manifestation ‘Nested’ in traced/computed patterns supports segregation and inter-relation of co-located qualitative attributes.
Since the physics underlying phenomenality is as yet obscure, and since interaction between a conscious agent and the environment can only be fully described by detailing effects spanning all orders of scale, it is argued there that it is not un-plausible for the aspect of phenomenality that we cannot explain in physical terms, i.e. how it originates and how the (proto-)subjective is linked to the world, – to involve low order-of-scale terms. The notion, I humbly believe, is shared by many of those applying themselves to the subject, at least in a general sense, and has been promoted by some prominent thinkers (e.g R. Penrose). If an assumption that ‘proto-phenomenality‘ possesses a low order physical aspect is postulated, then it provisionally becomes possible to construct upon it a consistent theory of the coming about of consciousness.
I fully expect this work to strike the erudite reader as seemingly leftfield in the extreme, esoteric, banal, trivial – one may take one’s pick. Yet I do believe it may be of some insight provoking value. I think it may be compatible with empirical findings and models of systems-neuroscience, the disciplines of cognitive science, as well as with some modern philosophical stances. Most importantly, it may offer a glimpse of a path leading towards a physical model of mind.
In any case a meta-level proposition is that thinking about bridges linking the measurable 3rd person with the un-observable subjective can, and should, assume fresh, as yet unexplored, perspectives. The ‘Hard Problem’ is one that invites theoretical approaches in advance of empiric tackling of it’s core. Like many others, I am skeptical of the arguments underlying the coining of the term, because I believe the keys to cracking the problem are hidden – deeply buried – but there is no reason to assume they lie intrinsically out of reach. I am led to believe that the so-called ‘Hard Problem’ is intimately intertwined with the ‘Easy Problem’. Inter-relations bridging the bi-faceted chasm known as the explanatory gap may be hypothesized and indirectly investigated (if not proved). Following these links may lead us onto these bridges, from where we may be even better positioned to describe further truths underpinning that ‘Hard’ side: A new theoretical paradigm may drive insights as to how to produce a handle – for getting some grasp on the problem. This work proposes a model that (re-)frames the ‘easy’ and the ‘hard’ problem divide, so whether on track or not, it exemplifies such an attempt.
Having studied medicine with a young person’s naive intent to specialize an Psychiatry, move into research and nurture an understanding of what makes consciousness tick, I quickly understood only what was not to be attainable. Committed to a path, I practiced Medicine as a GP for a few years, while dabbling in machine learning as an amateur enthusiast. Then life’s course led me to develop a career in Information Systems. Until recently I held an EVP / C-level position in a publicly traded software systems company. Turning back to what I was truly passionate about with a new found audacity that comes with experience, I set to fully commit myself to this independent path following the sale of the company.
Ron Bar Lev
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